Afghanistan: January 12, 2002

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The Afghan government, once it gets some money, plans to recruit 6,000 men for the new army and 30,000 men for the national police force. Nothing has been said about how these men would be trained and who would do it. There are calls in the country and abroad that the $100 million in Taliban overseas assets frozen at the start of be turned over to the new government. The government is also asking for cash as foreign aid as the fleeing Taliban took most of the cash available to the government. 

The UN peace keeping force in Kabul is now up to 1,000 troops (out of an eventual force of 5,000.) The US/UN plan, which the government appears to go along with, is for troops to take over the bombed out air ports in major cities, bring in engineers to repair the bomb damage and then station UN or US troops at these air ports to control what goes in and out. This would give the government control over air travel without having to worry about the corruption problem. It might get dicey in cities like Jalalabad, where the powerful drug gangs would really like to have free access to the local air port. 

Another reason for getting more airports functioning is that a major constraint on landlocked Afghanistan is the difficulty in getting supplies to any non-Afghan troops operating there. Everything has to be flown in and most of the airports were blasted by US bombers.  As a result, there are few US troops on the ground, and everyone has to count. Oddly enough, a Canadian infantry  battalion is headed to Afghanistan. With every infantry battalion in the US wanting in on "the only war we've got," why send in Canadians? Several reasons. The Canadians have good light infantry (their ever declining defense budget won't pay for much else), they have a lot of peacekeeping experience and there are probably some political/diplomatic issues involved as well. The Canadians will either end up guarding an air port or be sent up into the mountains to sweep al Qaeda camps for evidence. There are some 3,000 US marines around Kandahar airport, with some 2,000 US army troops moving in by air.

 

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